Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Movie Review: Due Date

If you should purchase a ticket to view Due Date you will have an absolute bargain clutched in your sweaty little reptilian claws. What you have actually bought is a ticket to see two movies. Now, one of these is a beautifully shot, well-acted quirky character-based road movie . Well done you. Unfortunately, the other one is a typically asinine teen gross-out comedy that has been bolted on the genuinely interesting film with masking tape and PVA glue.
The central concept is hackneyed stuff – mismatched strangers (uptight and intolerant soon-to-be-family man and ineffective lonely dreamer) are thrown together by unlikely circumstances into a race-against-time across the highways of America, and hi-jinx ensue. Lessons are learned along the way and emotional weight is piled on in the form of a newly arriving baby and a recently departed father. It is all very Planes, Trains And Automobiles, and it suffers badly in comparison. Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis pick up the reigns of their respective characters with verve and enthusiasm, and at times their performances are significantly better than the passable script and sub-par easy laugh scenarios should be able to muster. Both have superb senses of comic timing, as well as the ability to layer the sketchy, stereotyped characters with a surprising layer of emotive heft. Downey Jr.'s talents are a known quality, but at times Galifianakis is a real revelation – packing wannabe-actor and stoner Ethan with ambiguous sexuality and a subtle sense of deep loss.
This brings about a peculiar mercurial feel to the movie, which is perfectly comfortable to follow up a surprisingly gutwrenching scene of Galifianakis breaking down in a rest area toilet with another that is primarily focused around a masturbating dog. I like a total, unsatisfying shift in mood as much as the next guy but it left me baffled as to who the whole piece could possibly be aimed at. Unfortunately I think the only target audience is potentially the writers, who perhaps get a bit bored of all the gently amusing and bittersweet character material and occasionally feel the need to throw in a few weed, wheelchair and desecration gags. The crisp, lingering cinematography that frames their journey just adds to the sense of incongruity. It's lovely stuff, but really wasted on the material.
The great irritation in all this is that excised of the fratboy nonsense Due Date could be a decent quality Wes Anderson-style quirkfest. I would throw out accusations of dumbing down for the lowest common denominator, but I'm genuinely not sure whether the writers and director Todd Phillips knew what kind of film they wanted to make. In the end, the best recommendation I can give this is that it made me want to watch the two lead actors in better written roles. If that's all you easily pleased little monkeys want from your hard-earned cash then knock yourselves out.

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